When One Door Closes, Another Opens…

Often when clients consult me for advice or physiotherapy treatment, they are frustrated that they have had to stop their usual sport or exercise. They will usually add that they have put on weight and need to get back to it! At this point I routinely ask them if they have tried another form of exercise that doesn’t involve the injured body part? Frequently, a look of surprise ensues “I didn’t think of that!” Sometimes it’s a guilty look “I’ve been lazy…I’ve used it (my injury) as an excuse.” On other occasions it’s just a blank expression “I didn’t know what I could do?” When I tell them that in fact, there are quite a few things they can still do, their eyes light up with excitement at the prospect of resuming some form of physical activity.

I remember treating a triathlete several years ago. He came to see me because of a calf problem that was preventing him from running. Running was his favorite part of the triathlon and so predictably, it had a prominent place in his training regime. Initially I asked him to stop running and focus instead on swimming and upper body strengthening…he actually started enjoying swimming which in the past had been a chore. He would come in excitedly and tell me how his technique was improving. When he returned to competition he was surprised to see that his times had improved dramatically! By allowing him to focus on his weaknesses, his injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Alexander Graham Bell said “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” So true, we are constantly surrounded by opportunity but it takes a positive outlook and a flexible attitude to seize it!

Hypermobile Sportsmen Are More Injury Prone

Hypermobility can simply be described as joints bending and stretching further than normal. For instance, knees or elbows that bend backwards, a little finger that can bend backwards past 90 degrees, a thumb that can be bent to touch the forearm, etc.

An article in Reuters has summarised research that proves that hypermobile sportsmen are more prone to injury. Not only are they more likely to get injured but the injuries they sustain tend to be more serious. This could be due to a mix of factors such as weaker ligaments and soft tissue, and to poor joint positioning.

The likelihood of injury could be remedied by working on joint positional awareness and by muscle strengthening and coordination exercises to support the joints.

Can Yoga Wreck Your Body?

Can yoga wreck your body? According to a recent article in The New York Times it definitely can! The article mentions a number of serious injuries that are thought to have resulted from yoga. Although it’s slightly dramatic and perhaps a little biased, it may contain a valid lesson…

Surprisingly, it’s a stark contrast to a previous article I posted about the benefits of yoga for back pain. How can yoga be both good for health and hazardous at the same time? By the way, this doesn’t just apply to yoga but can be extended to almost anything in life…and the answer is summed up in one word…moderation! The overwhelming majority of injuries that were cited resulted from forcing the body past its anatomical limits i.e. extreme postures…

If you practice yoga or are thinking about starting…how can you make sure this doesn’t happen to you? There are two parts to this…your teacher…and…you…

Your instructor should:

  • be properly qualified and experienced
  • have relatively small class sizes to allow for more personalised tuition (particularly for beginners)
  • ask students about any existing injuries
  • focus on technique and alignment during instruction
  • offer a variety of exercise options to allow for differing skill levels
  • correct students that are doing movements incorrectly
  • not try to push students past their limitations

You should:

  • wear clothing to allow free and easy movement
  • ask questions if unsure of any posture or movement
  • know your limitations…we’re all built differently and have our own strengths and weaknesses
  • be cautious with any existing injuries and perhaps even consult your doctor or therapist before starting yoga
  • avoid competition with others and with yourself
  • take the time to progress from beginner moves to more advanced moves
  • listen to your bodies…particularly when it comes to more vulnerable areas like the neck, low back and knees

Lastly, remember to have fun!

Injury Blues

Last week I injured my shoulder whilst training in martial arts. Yeah, I know…if I’m going to play silly games I should expect things like that to happen! My first emotion was anger. Anger about the way it happened, who was to blame, “I should have known better”, etc. This got me thinking about the mental aspects of injury.

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross released a groundbreaking  book called “On Death and Dying”. It included a model which described the process by which people coped and dealt with grief and tragedy. Tragedies such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness. She defined 5 stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Interestingly, she later discovered that this process also applied to other forms of loss such as; the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, injury, etc. Although there are 5 stages, not everyone goes through all of them. Also, the order is not necessarily as shown above and people can dip in and out of a particular stage.

Athina Markou and Karen Wager-Smith have recently postulated that severe stress and adverse life events can lead to neurobiological processes that physically alter the brain. They believe this is an adaptive response and that it is accompanied by wound healing mechanisms such as inflammation. Certain neurons die, others sprout, change shape and make new connections as the brain rewires itself.

With injuries, the sooner we reach acceptance, the sooner we can start to work on the road to physical recovery. Fortunately for me, my injury isn”t serious and so, it didn’t take long to “get my head around it” and reach acceptance. I’d like to share with you something that really helped me. It’s a video documentary of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Braulio Estima.

Braulio Estima Road to ADCC Episode 4 – YouTube

It’s a wonderful illustration of how adversity can be faced with courage…and the miracles that can be achieved with belief, determination and perseverance.